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Small glaciers on the Balkan Peninsula: State and changes in the last several years

Gachev, Emil, Stoyanov, Krasimir, Gikov, Alexander
Quaternary international 2016 v.415 pp. 33-54
altitude, bedrock, environmental indicators, glaciers, ice, limestone, mountains, shrinkage, summer, temperature, winter, Albania, Balkans, Bulgaria, Montenegro
Mountain glaciers are among the best environmental indicators of short-term climatic variations. Although presently there are no classical glaciers on the Balkan Peninsula, mountains in this part of Europe comprise a number of small but permanent firn–ice patches, which can be determined as small glaciers. Most of them can be categorized as glacierets, and few have characteristics of small cirque glaciers. Most of these features have survived the warming since the end of the Little Ice Age, and are considered to have persisted for at least five centuries without a complete melt.Researches in the last several years revealed that 16 small firn/ice features of a permanent character (small glaciers) still survive in three mountain ranges on the Balkan Peninsula: Prokletije (Albania), Durmitor (Montenegro) and Pirin (Bulgaria). All glaciers are located in north and northeast facing strongly shaded cirques of carbonate bedrock (limestone, marble) at altitudes from 1910 to 2620 m a. s. l., and usually have areas from less than 1 ha to 5–6 ha.For the last 10 years all small glaciers of the Balkans have shown considerable inter-annual variations of their size. Observed fluctuations have been quite synchronous in the three studied mountains. In a long-term sense, no trend has been registered towards shrinkage or increase. Analyses of climatic data have shown a considerable relation between glacier size and summer temperature, and winter precipitation is a second factor.